Creating an adventure of equals

Yeo Suan Wei co-founded CampVision to help marginalised youths find their potential.

Through the CampVision ‘Live Your Dreams’ Fund, Yeo Suan Wei is able to impact more youths in a sustainable way.

By the time Yeo Suan Wei was in her early twenties, she already had an apartment, a car and a career that was taking off. But she still felt restless and unfulfilled.

A trip to Ghana to attend a friend’s wedding changed her perspective. Exploring the country, she came face-to-face with the harsh realities of the developing nation. Affected by what she saw, it fired up a desire in her to help others. She thought about doing something in Singapore – her home ground where she could best leverage on resources.

Back home, she sat down with two like-minded friends and together, they decided to start a camp for marginalised youth because they were passionate about wanting to “create a supportive, affirmative community” for teenagers.

The first CampVision ‘Live Your Dreams’ camp kicked off in 2003, with 100 youths aged between 13 and 19. One of the experiential activities they had to do was to each write on a wooden board – one side where they put down their dreams; the other side had negative thoughts that held them back from achieving those dreams. Then, while facing the side with negative thoughts, they would break their boards. Suan Wei still has her board from one of the camps, which she keeps as a source of motivation.

“It’s cool to see how these young people have had their lives changed in a positive manner, coming from something we talked about over pizza and beers years ago. It’s just magical.”

She said, “Negative voices will always come up. I remember being at school and feeling like I was never good enough, or always having to listen to an adult tell me how to feel or behave. The activity with the boards was a powerful way to show the youths I went through the same thing as them. Through it, we manage our negative voices and grow together on an adventure of equals.”

In 2013, when CampVision turned 10, Suan Wei began to think about the long term sustainability of the programme. With an increasing pool of donors, she felt that it was a priority to ensure transparency and accountability when managing donations and funds. She turned to the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) to create a proper structure that was regulated, as well as set up an endowment fund to support CampVision’s long term plans.

Suan Wei said, “CFS is a registered charity which gives donors assurance on corporate governance. This builds credibility and enabled us to connect with corporate partners and individuals who share our passion in youth development.”

“The additional support led CampVision to set up LEAD Academy, a facilitated mentoring programme that pairs working professionals with youths from neighbourhood schools to learn communication and leadership skills. Thanks to CFS, CampVision has grown in terms of our reach and ability to impact youths in a sustainable way.”

It has been 15 years since CampVision started, with more than 2,000 youths going through the programme. It has also attracted more than 500 volunteers, many of whom are professionals.

She said, “It’s cool to see how these young people have had their lives changed in a positive manner, coming from something we talked about over pizza and beers years ago. It’s just magical.”

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